Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom
Excerpts about Conventional Self
Conventional Self in the Experience of Being
There are basically three ways to experience Being, two of which are related to the functions of the Essential Identity. Let us take, for example, the experience of essential Truth, one of the pure forms of presence. The first way the self can experience essential Truth is easily accessible; the self experiences truth as presence, without experiencing itself as presence. In this condition we retain the normal feeling of identity. We experience ourselves as an individual, with a sense of identity, who is experiencing the presence of Truth. In this situation the subject is the conventional self and the object of perception is the presence of Truth. We might feel this presence to be our truth, but it remains an object. This level of essential experience retains the perspective of the conventional self. We might relate to the presence of Truth as if it is something we possess. But for the self to believe it “possesses” Being is like the body believing it possesses protoplasm. Since this belief is untrue it will tend to disconnect the self from its essential nature, because Truth is an aspect of this essential nature. The second and third ways of experiencing Being arise from the functions of the Essential Identity. We have said that the Essential Identity provides the capacity to situate one’s awareness in any form or dimension of Being. For instance, we may experience Being in the aspect of Truth, not in a subject-object relationship, but by experiencing ourselves from within and through essential Truth. In this direct experience of Truth we do not perceive ourselves experiencing Truth, but we are present as Truth. We recognize ourselves as the presence of Truth. We do not feel like an individual self experiencing Truth, but more like the presence of consciousness intimately aware of itself as Truth. There is no question of self experiencing Truth. The presence of Truth is the same, here, as the awareness of Truth. The awareness is identical to the presence, which is identical to the Truth. It is like solid gold aware of itself in each atom. This awareness of itself has the specific cognition of Truth. This is the pure
experience of Being in the aspect of Truth.
The Point of Existence, pg. 147
Freedom from the Conventional View of Being a Self
But the important thing about any condition of nondual realization is that there is a freedom from the conventional view of being a self that experiences objects and the world as separate from that self. We are free from the conventional view of duality between the experiencer and the experienced, between oneself and other things, between oneself and reality as a whole. In the nondual view, of course, not only is there no conventional self, but even the individual consciousness is one of the forms that manifests like any other. So we experience ourselves as the totality, as the whole universe. We are all the universes. We are the Being that is the nature of the universe that is in constant transformation, and that transformation is the evolution of the universe. In other words, the appearance of true nature is the universe that we see and the experiences that we have. But true nature is far more than only that—it is vast and mysterious, transparently clear, empty and full of presence. Nondual realization is definitely a condition of freedom, a condition of deep realization, and to be in that condition is considered by some teachings to be true enlightenment.
Runaway Realization, pg. 104
Self-Representations Determine the Entire Worldview
The following structure defines the conventional experience of the self: We are identified with a particular self-representation We experience ourselves within and through this self-representation This self representation is related to an object or objects The set of object relations, that is, self-representations in relation to object representations, constitutes the object world of the self, and determines the entire worldview.
The Point of Existence, pg. 108
Structuring Life to Support the Soul's Inner Journey
To support the soul’s inner journey, we need to live a life that holds our realization and our work adequately and objectively; we need to structure our life such that it recognizes, appreciates, and supports our ongoing realization. This life structure can involve participation in an inner work school, but such participation is not enough. We need to structure and develop the totality of our lives in a way that is sensitive to and supportive of our realization and our deepening development. Otherwise, our lives will support the ego-self, for the structures and habits and relationships of our lives have developed as extensions and expressions of the conventional self, the self we were before the deepening of our experience and understanding. The soul discovers that to truly move toward the inner essential truth and to live the life of essence means abandoning her normal identity and its various external and internal supports. The soul’s experience actually shifts to another experiential universe, where she will need to find different supports for her new identity and its life. Abandoning her old supports brings up deep fears and terrors, while discovering and implementing the new supports is usually counter to her habitual stances. Allowing the fear that arises from this and other issues connected with the citadel, particularly issues related to ego deficiency and the need to accommodate the desires and needs of other people, the soul can enter into a clear black space devoid of defensive functioning. The soul’s allowing this space brings the possibility of the emergence of the true support for the path, the citadel.
The Inner Journey Home, pg. 242
The Conventional Self is Born and Lives and Dies
The nature of the dynamic relationship between the individual and realization is what we are exploring here. On the spiritual path, we can experience the individual consciousness in many ways. At the beginning of the path, we experience the individual consciousness as the individual self, which is the ego self or the dualistic self. This self is an individual who is separate, who has a history, who lives in the world of other selves and other people and other objects. The conventional self is born and lives and dies—that is the ordinary view. As we explore this view, we realize that it has a great deal to do with impressions from our history and with mental constructions and concepts of a self-existing, autonomous individual. As this conventional sense of self is deconstructed by spiritual practice, it is possible to experience the individual consciousness without the fixation of a separate and dual self. Most Western traditions use the notion of soul to connote the individual consciousness that is without the fixation of a separate self. The Eastern traditions have different views and terms for it. Most Hindu schools usually refer to it as jiva or jiva-atman. And the closest terms for it in the Buddhist tradition are “stream of consciousness” and “mindstream.” When the dual sense of self is understood, the individual consciousness is free to appear as a soul, which is a living, conscious, and dynamic presence. But the view itself can still be ego-logical, since the individual consciousness can continue to experience itself as a separate and independently existing soul. However, it can also be free from that fixation and recognize itself as an expression of Living Being.
Runaway Realization, pg. 107
The Need to Structure and Develop the Totality of Our Lives
We need to structure and develop the totality of our lives in a way that is sensitive to and supportive of our realization and our deepening development. Otherwise, our lives will support the ego-self, for the structures and habits and relationships of our lives have developed as extensions and expressions of the conventional self, the self we were before the deepening of our experience and understanding.